CIF-SS preseasonTop 10s: Only five locals acknowledged

Five area high school football programs are among the CIF Southern
Section’s preseason top 10 polls.

In the Western Division (formerly Div. III), defending division
champion St. Paul is No. 3 behind Palmdale and Dominguez.

In the Southeast Division (Div. VII), Schurr is No. 4, Santa Fe is
No. 5
and California is No. 6. Leaders in the division are South Hills
No. 1, Charter Oak No. 2 and Diamond Ranch No. 3.

In the Southwest Division (Div. VI), 2007 Southeast Division champion
La Habra, moving up a division in 2008, is No. 2 behind two-time
defending champion El Dorado.

Local teams listed among others receiving votes are La Mirada in the
Southern Division (Div. IX) and Whittier Christian in the Mid-Valley
Division (Div. XI).

Locals who are conspicuous by their absence are La Serna and Pioneer in the Southeast Division, and Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary in the
Northwest Division (Div. X).

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Correspondents: Watch a ballgame, write the story

Last call for Stringers.
Looking for correspondents to cover Friday night football games.
Generally it means covering a game, then writing a relatively short
account of what you saw in story form. In some cases, it will involve
merely calling in the box score and a brief recap of the game (the desk
will write the story from the information you provide). You will be
given a press pass to cover the games from the sideline or press box (if
available). You’ll be paid a small fee for your effort and time. This is
a fun opportunity for real sports fans who have reasonable knowledge of
the game and can spell. Interested parties should send an email to
roger.murray@sgvn.com concerning your experience (however limited) and
contact information to set up an interview.

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Sportsmanship awards for Swordsmen

St. Paul High School and student Alissa Caceres have received “Champions for Character” awards from the California Interscholastic Federation, Southern Section (CIF-SS) for their performances in 2008.
A letter from the CIF-SS to St. Paul Principal Frank Laurenzello said the awards are being presented based on recommendations that cited the school and Caceres “as exemplifying the very finest in sportsmanship, character, integrity and athletics.”
The letter explained the school’s selection “was made from a pool of all the schools in the CIF Southern Section.”
Caceres’ selection “was made from thousands of possible recipients in the CIF Southern Section.”
Caceres, a standout cross country and track athlete, was honored in the student portion of the award.
St. Paul athletic director Marc Hernandez described the honor as an “award every athletic director strives to have in his athletic program.”
“This means we’re doing the right thing here,” Hernandez said. “It acknowledges the type of kids we have here, the type of student/athletes who are being prepared to be productive later on in life.
“It’s a validation for how we shape our kids, the process, and the great support we receive from our alumni and parents.”

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St. Paul gets a baseball … ah, make that softball coach

Having been a late hire, new St. Paul High School softball coach Craig Worthington talks of communication on his part and hard work on the players’ part as necessary in making a smooth transition to the coming season.
Worthington replaces Cassie Morales who resigned to pursue a different career direction.
Worthington, 43, brings some impressive credentials, albeit they are baseball-oriented.
A graduate of Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School and an all-conference selection at third base for Cerritos College, Worthington went on to spend 10 years in Major League Baseball. He played for the Baltimore Orioles (earning Sporting News Rookie of the Year honors in 1989 after batting .247 with 15 home runs and 70 runs batted in), Cleveland, Cincinnati and Texas. He finished with a .230 career average, 33 home runs and 144 RBIs in .
Worthington owns and operates a hitting instruction academy in Downey for both baseball and softball players.
“He has numerous connections to club softball teams and promises to bring on a quality staff,” St. Paul athletic director Marc Hernandez said. “I believe he will bring a sense of professionalism, leadership and continued success to our softball program.”
Because he was a late hire, Worthington did not have a summer program for the Swordsmen. He said he will spend the first month or two on conditioning before making up his mind how he will form the varsity and junior varsity groups.
To get the program started, Worthington said he needed to establish strong communication with the players and to earn their trust.
“Girls deal alot more with emotions than the boys do,” Worthington said, “but I feel confident I’ll be able to communicate well with them.
“The early goals will be to instill a team concept and work ethic, and how to go about it the right way. How we work on the field and in practice will determine how successful we’ll be. If we can get everybody in the same boat, everything should fall into place.”

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La Habra ready to take dead aim on Southwest Division

His team moves up a notch from the Southeast Division to the Southwest
Division, by the roman numeral from Division VII to Division VI, but La
Habra football coach Frank Mazzotta finds his team at No. 2 in Calpreps’
preseason division rankings.

Asked about his team’s chances to repeat as a division champion, he
merely expresses concern about, among others, two-time defending
champion El Dorado, No. 3-ranked Trabuco Hills (No. 3) and fellow
Freeway foe Fullerton (No. 5). He also adds he is excited, as are his
players, about being in this new division. He talks about “having a lot of
fun, getting to play some new teams and welcoming the new challenge.”

He also quietly adds his Highlanders, who are coming off a 13-0 (4-0
in league) CIF championship season, should be pretty good. No
arrogance, no boasting, no chest thumping, just answering a question.

He has always been that way.

Clearly he has the credentials to thump some chest.

In Mazzotta’s 10 years at the helm, La Habra has posted a 91-30-1
record overall and a 41-8 mark in league. Over the past six seasons, the
Highlanders are 27-2 in league.

His teams have won seven league championships, six of them with
undefeated records. They’ve reached the CIF Southern Section division
championship finale four times and come home with three CIF titles
(2002, 2003, 2007).

Has La Habra replaced Santa Fe as the area’s most dominant program?

Perhaps, if that is of any importance. What is more important is what
the players are getting out of being part of and playing in Mazzotta’s
program.

Sometimes one wonders if the community realizes what the program
provides, or maybe they know, and because of its consistency, merely
takes it for granted.

La Habra begins it’s bid for more trophy case hardware Sept. 12 on
the road against Downey. It should be a good opener, not necessarily for
the host Vikings.

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Season openers: from tough to ho-hum

While there is little doubt the area high school football team facing
area’s most difficult opening game challenge is St. Paul, there are
several others who will need to have their ducks in a row in order to
get off on the right foot this season.

Always adjustable before game time, here’s a ranking of what appears
to be a list of formidable season openers for the locals (opponents are
evaluated relative to area teams’ potential):
1. St. Paul at Servite: Swordsmen are hopeful for successful following their
division championship season, but Servite bigger, stronger, faster, just
better. This game better for St. Paul in Week 3 or 4.

2. Tesoro at La Mirada: Tesoro’s tried and proven program ahead of
Matadores’ rebuilding/revamping program

3. Pioneer at Charter Oak: Kudos to Titans coach Ramon Juarez for
major upgrades in preleague scheduling this season (including St. Paul),
but this season opener appears a bit ambitious.

4. El Rancho at West Covina: A new coach is always reason for
heightened optimism among the faithful, and Rick Zepeda clearly is a
legitimate reason for it in this case, but El Rancho’s best opportunity
may come if the host Bulldogs are looking past them to Week 2.

5. Warren at Santa Fe: Even in a down year for Warren, the Bears will
be a challenge for a Chiefs team trying to rebound from a sub-.500
season.

6. Schurr at Burbank Burroughs: Schurr has new coach (Ben Negrete)
and a new system, and while the top QB (Rick Mendez) and RB (Edwin
Molina) return, the offensive line is suspect, making the Spartans a
mystery team.

7. Bell Gardens at Whittier: As usual, Bell Gardens figures to make
it a very physical game against young Cardinals.

8. La Habra at Downey: Host Vikings’ experience playing in rugged San
Gabriel Valley League is biggest asset. La Habra concern might be in
taking Downey too lightly.

9. Montebello at Norwalk: Norwalk only No. 13 in preseason division
rankings, but Montebello coming off a 2-8 season with too many question
marks.

10. John Glenn at La Serna: Lancers faithful expecting big things,
and while those expectations might be over-inflated, the visiting Eagles
shouldn’t be a damper for the opener.

11. California at Rowland: Hopefully the cupboard has enough
leftovers to make defending Del Rio League champion Condors dangerous.
Host Raiders coming off a 3-8 year and rebuilding.

12. Cantwell at Salesian: Host Mustangs picked No. 3 in Santa Fe
League, while visiting Cardinals, behind big o-line and super receiver
Jeffrey Taylor, may be sleeper/spoiler in Camino Real League title
chase.

13. Cochrane at Whittier Christian: Not much known about visiting
Colts, but it would be a long way to travel just to be fodder for their
host. Cochrane must adjust from playing 12-man football on a 55-yard
wide field.

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Former La Mirada players come back to coach

Good head coaches talk all the time about the value of their staff,
those individuals whose reponsibilities concentrate on not only
developing a phase of the program but integrating it in the overall
picture. A term commonly used is “family,” as in “we’re like a family,
all working together.”

When La Mirada athletic director Kim Brooks says it, it runs deeper
than many schools. The Matadores will have new leadership in co-head
coaches Mike Moschetti and Ollie Lynch, with former long-time coach
Brooks sort of overseeing the whole project.

The big thing here is that along with Moschetti, nearly all of the
varsity assistant coaches are former La Mirada players. Moschetti
quarterbacked one of coach John Mele’s CIF finalist teams before going
on to Mt. San Antonio College and then Colorado, where some of his
passing records are still allive.

Mike Cardona was a Matadores lineman before playing at Purdue
University. He was an assistant with Brooks under Mele for nine seasons,
and after a brief stint away, he returns to coach the offensive line
this season.

Erik Meyer, the Daily News Player of the Year his senior season,
moved on to Eastern Washington where he set numerous passing records and
was presented with the most prestigious honor in NCAA Division I-AA Football — the Walter Payton Award — given annually to the top player in I-AA by The Sports Network.
He was the 12th player in Division 1-AA history to pass for 4,000 yards in
a season (4,003) and the 17th to pass for more than 10,000 in his career
(10,261). He’s helping with the Matadores quarterbacks and offense.

Chris Rudiger was one of the La Mirada’s all-time finest athletes, a standout
at linebacker/fullback in football and as a baseball outfielder. He was
scholarshipped by Stanford and was on the varsity football roster as a
freshman with a promising future before a neck injury early that season
ended his career. He’s coaching the Matadores linebackers.

Hugo Corral rushed for 2,000 yards for La Mirada’s 1996 CIF
championship finalist team. He’s handling the Matadores’ junior varsity
this year.

“In our preparations for the season, we’re doing a lot of things the
same way we did them when these coaches were doing them in school here,”
Brooks said before practice Thursday. “It’s good because the kids can
see where it got (the coaches), and the coaches know what the kids are
going through.

“There’s a lot more to La Mirada football than just coaching and
playing (in the arena). It’s about discipline not only on the field but
off the field, on campus, in the classroom, in the community, and
upholding the reponsibilities of not just representing ourselves but the
school and the community.”
Watching the Matadores practice, it is obvious commaraderie is thick,
commitment appears solid, and expectations reign supreme.

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Cantwell’s big O-line just got bigger

It wasn’t as though Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary football coach Pete
Smolin was starving for lack of size along his offensive line. Sure, the
Cardinals are going to be young up front, what with the marjority of the
folks up there being sophomores, but there are some good-sized fellas
among ‘em.

Tuesday, the overall picture got bigger. Literally. And brighter.

Enter Andrew Rico, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior transfer from
Garfield High School. It would seem he could be the perfect fit to give
Smolin the other bookend to solidify the forward wall.

He will join a list of candidates Smolin is working with that
includes senior Jordan Scanlan (6-3, 325), junior Steven Sinde (5-11,
225) and sophomores Eric Weissenberger (6-1, 240), Eduardo Maldonado
96-4, 290), Steven Silva (6-2, 250) and Sal Marchena (6-0, 225). Also in
there is senior Juan Padilla (5-10, 230), who did not play last season.

Add Smolin’s comment about this group: “The sophomores are bigger,
stronger and faster than the kids who graduated from last year.”

Sounds like it could be a wakeup call for the rest of the Camino Real
League.

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Calpreps: St. Paul No. 1, La Habra No. 2 in preseason division football rankings

Western Division (III)
1. St. Paul (Mission),
2. Palmdale (Golden), 3. Gahr (San Gabriel Valley), 4. Alemany (Mission), 5. Dominguez (San Gabriel Valley), 6. Palos Verdes (Bay), 7. Redondo Union (Bay), 8. Quartz Hill (Golden), 9. West Torrance (Bay), 10. St. Francis (Mission), 11. Chaminade (Mission), 12. Culver City (Ocean), 13. Warren (San Gabriel Valley), 14. Leuzinger (Bay), 15. Beverly Hills (Ocean).
Note: Good for the Swordsmen, although I doubt first-opponent Servite will be overly impressed.
Southwest Division (VI)
1. El Dorado (Century), 2. La Habra (Freeway), 3. Trabuco Hills (Sea View), 4. GG Pacifica (Garden Grove), 5. Fullerton (Freeway), 6. Cypress (Empire), 7. Tustin (Century), 8. Kennedy (Empire), 9. Placentia/Valencia, 10. Western (Orange), 11. El Toro (Sea View), 12. Troy (Freeway), 13. Foothill (Sea View), 14. Anaheim Canyon (Century), 15. El Modena (Century). 25. Sonora (Freeway), 27. Sunny Hills (Freeway), 30. (Buena Park (Freeway).
Note: Move La Habra up a notch and let the rest of the division take their shots at the Highlanders.
Southeast Division (VII)
1. South Hills (San Antonio), 2. Diamond Ranch (Miramonte), 3. Charter Oak (Miramonte), 4. Muir (Pacific), 5. California (Del Rio), 6. West Covina (San Antonio), 7. San Gabriel (Almont), 8. Pioneer (Del Rio), 9. La Serna (Del Rio), 10. Schurr (Almont), 11. Los Altos (Miramonte), 12. Pasadena (Pacific), 13. Alhambra (Almont), 14. Bonita (Miramonte), 15. Burbank Burroughs, 17. Santa Fe (Del Rio), 19. Whittier (Del Rio), 20. Bell Gardens (Almont), 21. El Rancho (Del Rio), 27. Montebello (Almont), 29. Mark Keppel (Almont).
Note: Whew! Can California and Pioneer live up to such high expectations, and can Santa Fe live down the lack of respect?
Southern Division (IX)
1. Laguna Hills (Pacific Coast), 2. Irvine University, 3. Westminster (Golden West), 4. GG Santiago (Garden Grove), 5. Bellflower (Suburban), 6. La Mirada (Suburban), 7. Irvine (Pacific Coast), 7. Mayfair (Suburban), 9. Artesia (Suburban), 10. Segerstrom (Golden West), 11. Corona del Mar (Pacific Coast), 12. Beckman (Pacific Coast), 13. Norwalk (Suburban), 14. Los Amigos (Garden Grove), 15. Ocean View (Golden West), 20. Cerritos (Suburban), 23. John Glenn (Suburban).
Note: A bit surprised about La Mirada’s acknowledgment, although reports continue to drift in about the good things happening among the Matadores.
Northwest Division (X)
1. Oaks Christian (Tri-Valley), 2. Gardena Serra (Del Rey), 3. Santa Clara (Tri-Valley), 4. Harvard/Westlake (Del Rey), 5. Oak Park (Tri-Valley), 6. Morro Bay (Los Padres), 7. Torrance (Pioneer), 8. Santa Maria St. Joseph, 9. Nordhoff (Tri-Valley), 10. Carpinteria
(Tri-Valley), 11. Cathedral (Del Rey), 12, South Torrance (Pioneer), 13. Bishop Diego (Tri-Valley), 14. St. Bernard (Del Rey), 15. Pioneer Valley (Los Padres). 21. La Salle (Camino Real), 23. Cantwell Sacred Heart (Camino Real), 25. Verbum Dei (Camino Real), 28. Bishop Montgomery (Camino Real), 29. Mary Star of the Sea (Camino Real).
Note: Cantwell wins a few games and the Cardinals get moved in with the likes of the potent Tri-Valley and Del Rey League powers. What kind of a reward is that?
Mid-Valley (XI)
1. San Dimas (Valle Vista), 2. Paraclete (Olympic), 3. Cerritos Valley Christian (Olympic), 4. South El Monte (Mission Valley, 5. Rosemead (Mission Valley), 6. Northview (Valle Vista), 7. El Monte (Mission Valley), 8. Baldwin Park (Valle Vista), 9. Whittier Christian (Olympic), 10. Monrovia (Rio Hondo), 11. Blair (Rio Hondo), 12. Los Angeles Baptist (Olympic), 13. Covina (Valle Vista), 14. San Marino, 15. Arroyo (Mission Valley), 20. Village Christian (Olympic).
Note: Re-read Northern Division note above, only insert Whittier Christian for Cantwell, and consider the value of the Heralds’ reward.

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